What is Kodi, and why should you care: Everything you need to know about the free, open-source Kodi media player software

Kodi is a brilliant free multiplatform media player that also happens to be great for watching TV and films for free - illegally. Here's everything you need to know about Kodi, maybe the best open-source media-centre software on the market right now

What's Kodi?

Kodi is a free, open-source media player. Kodi started off on the Xbox, where it was known as Xbox Media Center (or XBMC), but that feels a long time ago: the software is now available on a huge range of platforms and in more than 65 languages, and incorporates the work of hundreds of programmers. And it's now known as Kodi, of course - the name change happened in 2014.

So Microsoft isn't in charge any more?

No. A non-profit called the XBMC Foundation operates the project, and the work is done by volunteer programmers around the world, who are known as Team Kodi. Team Kodi footsoldiers can join the Foundation, and - if successfully elected - members of the Foundation can join the XBMC Board of Directors.

You can donate to the XBMC Foundation, and possibly should if you enjoy the software. They accept Bitcoin.

What does Kodi do?

It plays digital media. TV (life and recorded), films, other video, music, podcasts, photos, slideshows. That sort of thing.

Sounds fairly standard.

Well, yes, but Kodi is designed to act as a media centre - the original idea was to install it on a PC that's connected to a big-screen TV - and has specific features for that role. Such as a '10-foot user interface', designed to be legible on a TV when sitting on a sofa, and compatibility with remote control hardware or software.

And speaking more generally, there are some advantages to Kodi that you don't get with other media players. It's compatible with a very wide range of file formats and OS platforms, and its open-source nature, high profile and large base of programmers mean there's a vast range of add-ons and reskins that you can download to customise the software to your heart's content.

Which operating systems is Kodi compatible with?

Kodi is available on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Kodibuntu, iOS, Android, Raspberry Pi and some others. Have a look here.

Note that the iOS version is for jailbroken iPhones and iPads, but there is a (slightly complicated) workaround that lets you sideload Kodi on to a non-jailbroken iDevice, which we explain here: How to get Kodi on iPhone or iPad (without jailbreaking).

I still don't get why everyone loves Kodi so much.

It's quite popular - and apparently very good - for watching 'pirated' copyrighted content for free. The XBMC Foundation, understandably, distance themselves from such use.

XBMC Foundation president Nathan Betzen has criticised third-party developers who "make a quick buck modifying Kodi, installing broken piracy add-ons, advertising that Kodi lets you watch free movies and TV, and then vanishing when the user buys the box and finds out that the add-on they were sold on was a crummy, constantly breaking mess."

Watching pirated content is illegal.

Yes it is.

We would never advocate that sort of nonsense.

Of course not.

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By David Price

Macworld U.K.
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